US AIRWAYS

Dance Adams

Communication 642

US Air Ways

BACKGROUND

US Airways began as an airmail service in 1939. In their 73 year history the company has changed names several times. Originally from All American Aviation to All American Airlines and Allegheny Airlines while acquiring Lake Central Airlines and Mohawk Airlines. In 1979 Allegheny Airlines changes their name to US Air. http://www.usairways.com/en-us/aboutus/pressroom/history/chronology.html

PROBLEM

January 15 2008 US Airways flight 1549 left New York’s LaGuarida airport headed for Charlotte, North Carolina and after striking a flight of birds crashed landed in the Hudson River.

SITUATION (SWOT) ANALYSIS

Strengths: First they had recently updated their crisis plan. Second they had just implemented a dry run of their plan. The timing of the water landing was fortuitous in that their crisis plan was fresh in the minds of their employees. Also the Hudson River helped the rescue efforts, crashing in the ocean surly would have claimed lives. Next the airlines use of the word accident instead of crash or crash landing, allowing them to admit there was a problem in the best possible light. Finally, I believe that the flight altitude must have been a great advantage, in-comparison to a flight that suffered engine failure at 30 thousand feet.

Weakness: The major weakness was the simple fact of the laws of averages. Simply put if you fly long enough you will have mechanical problems that may lead to a crash. US Airways could only be re-reactionary in this situation, which is never a good place to be. Finally, there appears to be weakness for all commercial airlines, the lack of innovation that the industry has shown toward bird deflection. This might seem obvious but how can aeronautical engineers over look that a mufti-million dollar planes that hold the lives of their passengers can be forced out of the air by a bird?

Opportunities: There largest opportunity was for good P.R., and to show the world how they care for their passengers. Second was the “hero” drum that they beat the horse to death using the captain heroics and years of experience.

Threats: Loss of consumer confidence, leading to dwindling ticket sales. Law suites from the passengers, crew and their families. Also stronger federal regulation, and negative P.R could have proven to be problematic.

STRATEGIES

1: Waited until facts could be confirmed before giving a detailed response.

2: Web page was up with in thirty minutes.

3: The “ care team” was sent to New York to provide cell phones and clothing to passengers.

4: Leveraged search engines by purchasing key words, and terms for information redirection.

5: Set up phone lines for families to check on passengers.

6: There “go team” carried credit cards and cash to the first responders to book hotel rooms for the passengers.

7: CEO gave a that a boy to the police firemen, ferry boat operators, Salvation Army, E.M.T.’s etc….

8: Sent letters to passengers explaining how to retrieve items left behind with a $5000 check to handle immediate expenses.

9: Reimbursed air fair.

10: Gave passengers “chairman’s preferred” status until March 2010.

11: Continued to keep their success fresh in the mind of the general public via 60 minutes interviews 12 months later, also a pilgrimage was made back to the crash site one year latter.

CONSQUENCES

Business Week proclaimed US Airways to be “a model of crisis management”. The company still is heralded as a caring company. The crash was named the “miracle on the Hudson”; in short they have appeared to have made the correct decisions.

COMMENTS

This case is a testament of a good P.R. Department and communications team. They by all reports have appeared to perform their duties to the best of any standard. However, I would be remiss if I did not point out that the captain all though a skilled pilot did not deserve the title of hero. I believe that he was doing a job that he was handsomely paid to do. For me a hero is somebody who goes above and beyond the call of duty, here the captain had no choice but to do his level best to land the plane as he to was on board. .

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7 Responses to US AIRWAYS

  1. karobinson5 says:

    Dance,
    I like the way you look at these cases. You have a unique perspective on this case. I agree with many of your points. You would think that with the number of planes leaving LaGuardia, there would have been a prodrome for this crisis. I wonder if the geese had flown into other planes and they managed not to crash or make a water landing. Was the captain a hero or was he just doing his job? When we are doing our jobs and adversity comes along, we should know how to react whether we are flying the plane or sending out the press releases. Training is required for all employees. So that means the new VP of corporate communications was also a hero. He updated the crisis plan and rehearsed it. Would this have been an opportunity for US Airways to promote itself, if the VP hadn’t taken the actions that he did? I agree the media did beat the hero drum quite loudly and the company spent hours in that same media beating the “our people are prepared and trained” drum. I also agree that this case should be a wake up call for companies that don’t fund or support their public relations/communications departments. Without the proactive PR department, this incident would have quickly turned to a crisis.

  2. djwindholz says:

    I think the Captain deserved to be called a hero, and I don’t think that he just did what he had to do. He did go above and beyond in my opinion. He made a very excellent decision without being given much time to think about it, and he was truly concerned about the safety of his passengers. He could have been the first one out of the plane and let everyone else worry about themselves, but he went back in and searched the plane twice to make sure everyone was out and was safe before getting into a raft himself. A hero is someone who shows courage in the face of danger, and I think he just just that!

    • djwindholz says:

      * he did just that!

      • danceadams says:

        I must disagree with you on this subject. First, I still posit that he had no other choice but to try his best to crash land the plane. If he did not, he too would be dead. Second, with out much time to react, as you stated, I believe that it was self preservation over concern of passengers. Finally, as far as the captain’s recheck of the plane goes, it must have been very courageous to do so when you can see the shore on both sides. If you can’t swim, remember the seats can be used as a flotation device.

  3. lynnluig says:

    I agree with Dance that the captain was just doing his job, as he even said himself. However, this is a humble response to what is obviously a tremendous feat. We would all hope that ALL pilots would be able to handle this situation the same way but that is not realistic. There were many variables in this case that he handled with grace. He was ranked second in Time’s “Top 100 Most Influential Heroes and Icons of 2009”. I’m sure the Time’s did their research on defining a hero before giving him that honor.

  4. danceadams says:

    I have not read that particular issue of Time magazine and do not know the other alleged heroes listed within. What I do know is that Time-Warner is a for profit business. It stands to reason that they would mirror the current aberration of heroism to help them sell their magazine. It is an aberration because the definition of hero changes frequently in our society. I would still argue that a hero is somebody who from a position of safety, with no ulterior motive or opportunity of profit, chooses to place himself in harms way to save somebody else. Finally, in regards to his “I was just doing my job.” For people of his generation, they had higher expectations of themselves. When they were hired to do a job, they did it to the best of their ability, with little to no fanfare. It is only more recent generations that seem to need a ticker tape parade every time they make it to work on time.

  5. l992 says:

    Your statement that you do not think that the Captain deserves the title hero, makes me ponder. I understand where you are coming from. He was doing the job that he signed up for and the job he gets paid to be qualified for. I do have to say that he did make sure everyone else was off the plane before he was, which to me shows the quality of a hero, which is selflessness. We can agree to disagree on his hero status.

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